By Gloria Martin
If you can build a business from making stuff that your friends like and you’re passionate about it, you’re bound for success.
There’s nothing slim about these pickings.
17 million apples are pressed down to 3 million litres of apple juice to make just enough craft cider for Brickworks Ontario market.
The company reaches Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, will soon stretch to BC and go Canada-wide next year. You can also find Brickworks brews in the Cayman Islands, where expats and locals love the brew.
“The Seed of the Idea”
At the University of Western Ontario, Brickworks founders Chris Noll and Adam Gerrits started brewing cider in small batches for fun, to share with their six roommates and other friends. “We made really good cider!” says Chris.
After finishing school, the pair went their separate ways pursuing work, but years later their college camaraderie paid off in a big way.
Three and a half years ago, their interest was piqued by the burgeoning cider market and the emergence of the craft cider industry. They started making small batches, then bigger ones and soon Brickworks Ciderhouse was born-the first and only Cidery in Toronto since prohibition in the 1920’s.
“Brickworks Batch: 1904”
For their flagship brew ”Batch: 1904,” fresh apples are pressed and start fermenting within 48 hours, fermenting down to a zero. No sugar. Another batch of fresh apple juice is used to back sweeten the dry cider.
Chris describes it as: “Very refreshing! – a UK style dry tart cider with only 9 grams of natural sugar from apples versus other import ciders that can have up to 55 to 60 grams per can. That’s why it’s the number one selling craft cider in Canada. We call it “The Perfect Cider” but we are a little biased. It’s like the difference between fresh squeezed orange juice and concentrate. A lot of Cideries will add sugar or apple juice concentrate. There’s so much flavour in fresh fruit you don’t need anything else.”
The name “Batch: 1904” reflects some Toronto history, a catastrophic fire that consumed the downtown core in 1904. The cider industry was winding down at that time as well, so the brew celebrates the subsequent rebirth of the city and the rebirth of the cider industry. The company’s trademark name “Brickworks” harkens back to rebuilding the city with bricks made from the crimson red clay in the Don Valley.
“Queen Street 501”
“Queen Street 501” takes the name of Toronto’s famous streetcar line, the longest line in North America. It wends through eight Toronto boroughs so Brickworks blends 8 varieties of Ontario heritage apples to produce the flavour of this semi-sweet cider. With a bit more fresh apple juice added, it’s slightly sweeter with 19 grams of sugar but still well below the imports. It holds the number two spot for Ontario craft cider sales.
“Stadium Island Peach”
When their wives requested a peach cider, Chris and Adam made some, just for fun. Everyone loved it. Then the LCBO loved it so “Stadium Island Peach” is now in the Brickworks Christmas mix pack and will be available full time in store next summer. It’s moniker honours Babe Ruth’s famous first home run -hit at Hanlan’s Point Stadium on September 5th, 1914. The ball landed in the harbour and has never been found.
Chris grew up in Parkside and the latest offering from Brickworks “Parkside Cherry” is named for the High Park Cherry blossoms that are so beautiful in spring.
While in Brussels, Belgium recently Chris fell in love with the sour beers: “The natural ferments were amazing. So we experimented this summer with a tart cherry cider called “Field Trip Cherry” for the Biermarket, then decided to make a more ‘cherry forward’ cider and now the colour is bright, bright crimson red.”
Parkside Cherry is also included in the Brickworks Christmas Mix pack.
“An Apple a Day”
In Canada all our apples are GMO free and Brickworks is also gluten free.
“I drank a lot of cider when I was younger because I found beer would make me feel bloated. I probably have a slight intolerance to gluten, nothing serious. But I feel very light with cider. For people with Crohn’s, celiac disease, gluten intolerance it gives you a nice alternative to a glass of wine.
“The Cider House Rules”
“When you have a company, it’s your responsibility to give back to the community. We’re doing something right now at the Distillery Christmas Market with Daily Bread Food Bank and we also work hand in hand with “Not Far From the Tree” a really great group of people who pick unused fruit and distribute it.”
“With Batch 1904 and the Queen Street 501-every single apple we use comes from within 300 km of the city. It’s our rule. We like the idea that you can go and visit where your food grows and come home the same day. It’s so rare in this world.”
After sampling the dry, refreshing Batch: 1904 and jumping on the flavourful Queen Street 501, I can highly recommend Brickworks clean, crisp ciders. It feels good to know they’re steeped in local history and made with a passionate spirit and pride.
(Brickworks Cidery was purchased by Mill Street Brewery in 2015. Labatt purchased Mill Street that same year but both Mill Street and Brickworks maintain autonomy.)